pon·der (/ˈpändər/), verb: think about, give thought to, consider, review, reflect on, mull over, contemplate, study, meditate on, muse on, deliberate about, cogitate on, dwell on, ruminate over, chew over, puzzle over, turn over in one’s mind 
I imagine that most of us sometimes look at how we spend our time. Such a look might revolve around seeing what amount of time I am productive, what amount of time I allot towards taking care of my basic needs, what amount of time I take for those who depend on me. And so on. What I rarely gave thought to is how I use the time of my thinking in all of its aspects. What do I mean?
First, there is the kind of thinking that is the simple ongoing narrative in our heads, the kind of “thinking” that is more an addiction of the mind than actual thinking. It is what our efforts towards what these days is called mindfulness are meant to cure. 
Then there is a more intentional kind of thinking. Which freeway exit should I take if the gas gauge is down to a quarter full? What should I say to a friend who is grieving? If my finances are tight, which bills should I pay first? This way of using the remarkable mind which we Homo sapiens have been given is certainly an improvement over the first kind of so called thinking.
There is yet a third possibility, the possibility of pondering. It is to use the mind to think about something of importance, not in a cursory way, but to think deeply, returning to the topic again and again, looking it over, as one might turn over in one’s hands a mineral found in a mine. I might look at the glistening stone I am holding and not be able to come to a quick answer as to its nature. Not even. But that does not cause me to cease my investigation, turning the mineral over and over in my hands. In recollecting all of my thinking time, I see that only a small part is spent with this kind of thinking called pondering.
I believe that the time I give to pondering should make up a greater and greater portion of my thinking. Most of the smaller topics will take care of themselves. They are really not worthy of the precious time I have remaining. Perhaps I might devote part of each day to pondering those topics that are worthy of an ever deepening investigation in the years that remain. Each of us may find certain topics that seem most compelling. For me, there are two.
The first is concerning death, the great mystery. Each day it walks a little closer beside me, yet it is unknowable. In the past there has been little depth in my thinking about death, as the thoughts have mostly been intermittent and passing ones. That is perhaps true for many of us.
The second is concerning this energy which descends into the body in moments of grace. An energy that is cleansing, vivifying, opening. This transcendental energy to which one turns like a plant turning towards the sun. Called by different names in the different traditions, this felt relationship with a higher level seems to be the most important thing in my life.
And, finally, what is the relationship of these two truths to each other? Some very great mystery, deeply hidden. It is not a question of answers. Rather, it is I who am in question. Can I keep these questions near to me each day? What might be the meaning of fidelity in this context?
Comments are welcome. An exchange illuminates.


  1. What you say about pondering being like turning a mineral over and over in my hands reminds me of my teacher, who often spoke about seeing the different aspects of things, He often used a similar metaphor, such as a diamond with its many facets. He clearly did this himself, which is why his thought is so brilliant and unorthodox. There is the idea of weight, too, that pondering is weighing. As Rilke says in The Man Watching: the landscape, like a line in the psalm book, is seriousness and weight and eternity (Robert Bly, translator)
    I am touched that you include the topics you wish to ponder. We need to know this and then make the time to do it.

  2. Well Dennis, with all the pondering you do, and I know it is a lot, how do you get all your tasks done? I love pondering, and don’t usually move to that state of mind unless I am stimulated by an issue greater than I can readily solve, as in The Wall or understanding how one person can become evil. I have recently been pondering over the Book of Leviticus in the Bible and how God was so seemingly cruel in comparison to today’s standards in U.S. My son in law made sense when he described God’s actions as the most progressive actions at that time. I could ponder that and make sense of it.

    Pondering about death, about my being closer to this state each day, has me reflecting on all things past that are now regrettable and am comforted by the fact that the death of the Son of God, Jesus, on the Cross, and my confessions to Him, has made me more acceptable to myself and based on my belief, to our Gatekeeper, God.

    Pondering over Satan, as I participate in a Bible study at church, makes me believe we need to discuss him and his ways of involving himself, thus evil, in our lives, more often. We speak of all things good yet the evil in our world has a source and we don’t talk about that nor how we can reduce or eliminate it. As a Christian, my main tool is prayer and being mindful of my own behaviors and interactions with my fellow human beings.

    I must conclude that pondering isn’t always resolution, but great exercise for the mind.

  3. Dear Fredrica,
    I am thoughtful of your mention of your teacher and his lasting effect on you and so many others. And thank you, once again. Your comments are always most welcome.
    “I can’t bear without a friend, I can’t love without a sister.” Rilke

  4. Thank you, Mitzi. Best wishes, as always, Dennis

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